Former resident pens eNovel based on experiences in Park City
Writer Ray Speckman lived in Park City during the 1970s and was intrigued by the remnants of Ned Warren’s land sales operation in Arizona that had settled in Utah at the time.
Warren was nicknamed the "Kingpin of Arizona Land Fraud" by the media when he was manager of Western Growth Capital Corp. and Consolidated Mortgage Corp. that sold land in Yuma and Yapavai counties.
He was convicted in 1978 on 20 counts of land fraud for selling land to multiple buyers in bad deals where thousands of investors lost millions of dollars, according to Speckman.
Don Bolles, an investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic was found murdered in 1976, and many people believed he had been about to expose a money-laundering operation involving the Mafia and Warren.
"When I lived in Park City, the people who were part of Ned’s organizations were selling tracks of land in various parts of the mountains," said Speckman during an interview with The Park Record. "I became very interested in the background of Ned and Don, who was murdered, by gosh knows who.
"At that time, they were trying to go straight, and as far as I know, they probably were, but the leader that Ned had established in Utah was eventually indicted on 115 counts of land fraud in Arizona and extradited by then Governor Scott Matheson," Speckman said.
So, based on those events, Speckman, who now lives in Missouri, decided to write an eBook called "Zenith."
"The main character is a reporter named Henry Dent, who is an escapee from the Arizona Republic where he had been a reporter for many years," Speckman explained. "He left during the Arizona land fraud days after his colleague was murdered." "Zenith" is available for the Kindle eReader at http://www.amazon.com , http://www.barnesandnoble.com , ebookstore.sony.com and http://www.kobobooks.com .
"It was a great experience living up in Park City with my now-deceased wife, Marti, up in that little mining town," Speckman said. "I enjoyed the people there, and the close-knittedness of the people that I met along the way in various times of my life, formed the genesis for the book. I mixed characters that I had run across in different scenarios."
The Dent character emerged from Speckman’s obsession with weekly newspapers.
"This imaginary guy wears a felt hat when it’s out of style and has too many pens in his pockets, but is a friend to everyone," Speckman said. "He writes a column for the weekly paper called the Zenith Miner and has deep thoughts about how the town is changing from a mining community to a bustling resort destination.
"I made him a friend of Bolles and his mission is to find out why the murder happened," Speckman said. "He developed as a character as the story went on." Speckman started writing "Zenith" in 1980.
"With the assistance of my lady friend, Joyce Mitchell, whom I live with in sin as true octogenarians these days, I finished the book," Speckman said. "I did it because she told me to finish the darn thing."
The ending, which Dent sums up in a Zenith Miner column, came six months ago.
"I sent the manuscript to an editor and followed all the suggestions and retyped the book," Speckman said. "I then sent it to a formatter for eBook publication and then published it."
The goal was to portray good and evil and have the readers decide which side prevails at the end.
"It was an onerous task, because I had to remember all the characters that I had put in," Speckman said with a laugh.
After the writer posted a teaser on his Facebook page, a strange thing happened.
"Our doorbell rang one evening, and when we answered, we found a well-dressed mature gentleman and his wife standing on our porch," Speckman said. "He introduced himself as an elder in the Mormon church from the State of Washington and said he understood that I was working on a book that takes place in Park City in the ’70s."
He told Speckman he would like to talk about it.
"I asked if he could come back the next week and they did," Speckman said. "He said he understood that my book was going to have some content about the Mormon church and asked if there was anything he could help me with."
After Speckman declined, the men continued to talk "quite congenially" for the next 30 minutes about the split between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized LDS, which is now known as the Community of Christ.
"The RLDS broke off of the Mormon Church after founder Joseph Smith was killed in Nauvoo, Illinois," Speckman said. "I told him I had visited Nauvoo and was impressed with how the LDS and RLDS lived in harmony, while both occupying property next to each other.
"He told me he didn’t know that, and then after a while, he said, ‘thank you for your time’ and left, and that was the end," Speckman said. "I haven’t heard from anyone since, but it was interesting."
Speckman always wanted to be writer, and has been published in Missouri magazine and other publications in the state.
"I am so glad I was able to finish the book, because now I can sit at my computer and ask myself what I want to write about today, without having that book hanging over me," he said with a laugh.
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